Jimmy Carter photo

Atlantic City, New Jersey Remarks at a Democratic Party Campaign Luncheon.

September 20, 1978

One of the nice things about New Jersey is that I experienced this same kind of reception and friendship and applause even before Camp David. [Laughter]

When I came here during the early stages of Brendan Byrne's campaign for Governor, I was really overwhelmed with the response of the people of your State, and the very wise decision that you made is a credit to you in choosing this man who has absolute integrity to administer the affairs of your State during this exciting time for New Jersey.

I just had an interview with public television, and one of the things that I could not restrain myself from saying was that since I've been coming here—1974, '75, '76, to campaign, and now as President, '78—I've seen a tremendous upsurge in the spirit of the people of New Jersey. There's a confidence in the future, an eagerness to work together, a friendship, a kind of exemplification of the finest aspects of our country that is shown by you in New Jersey and, I think, particularly 'by the Democrats of New Jersey. And I'm thankful for it.

I'm glad to be in the Second District and back in Atlantic City. I didn't carry all the congressional districts in New Jersey in the general election in 1976, but I carried this one. One of the reasons was that my wife campaigned here instead of me. [Laughter] And it was one of the few times during the campaign when I knew where my wife was, for I saw her picture on the boardwalk in Atlantic City with an enormous peanut. And I said, "Well, at least I know where she was yesterday."

But I am glad to come here to meet with you and to talk about some important things to you, to the people of our Nation, to the Democratic Party, and, I think, to the world. I don't think I'll follow any prepared text, although I gave some thought to what I would like to say.

You've showed a sound judgment in the past in the selection of the wonderful Democratic officials that have already been introduced, the sterling group of Members of Congress that have served your State, their district, our Nation so well. And you have an opportunity this year to return them to office, to elect new Democrats where Republicans now serve in the House of Representatives, and to bring to the United States Senate one of the finest candidates we have in our whole country, Bill Bradley. If you will work, I'll work to get him elected.

I have never served nor lived in Washington before I was inaugurated President. But I think what the people of our Nation were searching for was someone who had derived experience and analysis and thoughts and ideas, ideals, commitments, hopes, dreams from direct contact with the American people over a long, tough, arduous campaign; to bring some fresh ideas and thoughts to our government—the same kind of approach that Bill Bradley will bring when he arrives in the United States Senate next January.

And I know that he and I share some common beliefs, a belief that we can protect, even enhance the principles that have made the Democratic Party great; concern about those who are quite often deprived of an opportunity in our great society, those who are poor or without influence, who are not articulate, who are not well organized, those who suffer in different ways, who have not had an adequate education, who don't have a fulltime job, who don't have security, who don't have wealth, perhaps who don't have good health.

These are the kinds of people that the Democratic Party has always reached out to. And we have brought them into our own hearts and into our political organization and made staunch, self-supporting, independent, proud, American political leaders out of them. And that's the essence of what the Democratic Party has as a record for which we can all be proud.

But that's not all of it. The American people obviously want that. They don't get it from the other party. But for too long, we've suffered in the Democratic Party—particularly in my part of the country—from an erroneous reputation that we were fiscally irresponsible. This is not true. And this is an additional part of Bill Bradley's belief—and I think mine as well—that we've got to have a government organizational structure that doesn't waste our tax money, that's well organized, that delivers services efficiently, that gives dedicated public servants, civil servants a chance to serve with enthusiasm and competence.

We have had good support in the Congress for making changes like this. While I was at Camp David, the House passed, with only 10 dissenting votes, the civil service reform bill, for the first time in a hundred years substantially improving the mechanism within which dedicated civil servants work—to reward good performance, to correct bad performance, to let managers manage, to let there be a new spirit of service and pride for people who are really self-sacrificing in many ways, who have given their one life to a full career of serving others. This is what we hope to open is a new vision of what dedicated, professional, career public servants can do.

This was not an easy thing. But it shows that Democrats in the White House and in the Congress can work together to make the organizational structure of our Government more efficient, more effective.

I also share with Bill Bradley a hope that we can have better budgeting procedures. I believe in a balanced budget. And I'm working hard to correct the deficiencies that existed for so many years before I was inaugurated as President.

When I ran for President in 1976 in your State, the budget deficit was in the high sixties of billions of dollars. The first budget that I prepared, fiscal year 1978, was in the fifties of billions of dollars, low fifties—51, I think. This proposal that the Congress now considers, fiscal year 1979, will be in the low forties of billions of dollars. I'm preparing the 1980 budget now. It'll be in the thirties of billions of dollars.

These reductions in deficits are what the American people demand. At the same time, we've not cut corners on delivering services to the American people. And in addition to the tremendous reduction in deficits by the end of this year, I think the Democrats in the Congress will have delivered to the American people a reduction in income taxes of more than $25 billion. This is the kind of record that makes us all proud; it's the kind of philosophy that has bound us together with the existing Members of Congress who are Democrats; it's the kind of procedure that I'm sure will be even enhanced when Bill Bradley joins us next January in Washington.

I guess when I was elected, the biggest problem that Americans faced was unemployment. At that time in our Nation, 10 million Americans who wanted to work and who were able to work could not find a full-time job. About 8 million Americans had no job at all. The unemployment rate was 8 percent. And I and the Democratic Congress began to work on this problem together in harmony. Since then, we've had a net increase of 6 million new jobs in our country. Never before have we seen a growth in employment approaching this magnitude. The unemployment rate has dropped 25 percent, from 8 down to 6 percent. And we've begun to focus more accurately now on those who have been the chronically unemployed-minority groups, young people, women-to bring them in this circle of Americans who can stand with pride and say, "I support myself. God gave me a certain amount of talent and ability, and now I can use it for productive purposes."

There's nothing more devastating to a young person who arrives at the age of 18 or 19, finishing high school, to know that he has enormous promise within himself or within herself and to be deprived of a right to serve usefully. After a year or two of a self-realization of shame because one's life is not productive, there's an inclination for a young person to turn against society, to lash out at the structure of our country.

And these are the things that Democrats have been trying to accomplish.

We've still got some very serious problems obviously. We haven't solved all the problems. For the last 10 years, we've had an inflation rate of about 6 or 7 percent, entirely too high. And now there comes a time when we are ready to address this effectively. We won't do it as the Republicans did by putting people out of work. We intend to approach inflation by the realization that there are some things that Congress can do, some things I can do administratively, some things that labor can do, management can do, the average citizen can do, to reduce the enormous inflation rates that rob us all.

As you know, the ones who suffer most are those who live on a fixed income, those who have very modest savings. It's not right, it's not fair. It's not compatible with the ideals and principles of our country to have people suffer who occupy that position in our society.

We are trying to do some things in the Congress. One of the most important, that I mentioned to the steelworkers a few minutes ago, is the hospital cost containment bill. I don't think we're going to be successful this year in getting it passed because of the enormous influence of the lobbyists who are protecting an unwarranted position in American society. Since 1960, hospital costs have gone up more than 1,000 percent.

Not long ago, Tip O'Neill came back from a weekend in Boston and brought me a bill, a hospital bill for one of his working constituent friends. His little son had fallen down and driven two or three, four teeth, I think, up into his upper gum. The child stayed in the hospital 26 hours. The bill was $2,330.99.

This is the kind of thing that falls on people who don't have a friend who happens to be the Speaker of the House. And I think there's a time to stir up the consciousness of American people, who know that there are some things that can be done to provide equity and fairness in our society and at the same time remove the enormous burden of inflation.

Now, what we proposed to the Congress this year, which was rejected so far, is that the rate of increase of hospital charges should be limited to only 50 percent more than the inflation rate—9 or 10 percent-after 2 years. Now the increase in hospital charges are twice the inflation rate. These are the kind of things we are trying to do.

I think we'll have a successful vote this week in the Congress on another measure that we put forward as Democrats, the airline deregulation bill. Any of you who fly in our own country or overseas know that we put forward as Democrats, the in the last 20 months in the fares that you have to pay. When I campaigned around our country for 2 years, I quite often rode on a large airplane that was only 25 percent filled, or even less. Now those same airplanes are 75 percent filled, or more. The fares are cheaper. More people are flying. The airlines are making more profit.

That's the kind of thing that the Democrats are doing to demonstrate not only our fairness but our constructive contribution to the free enterprise system in America that we love so much and which quite often in the past the Republicans have erroneously claimed was their special province. We believe in tough competition to protect consumers, yes, but to make sure that those who participate in the free enterprise system as suppliers also make a better profit.

For the first time in history, political history, polling history, last month a Gallup poll showed that twice as many people now believe that the Democrats are fiscally responsible as believed the Republicans are fiscally responsible. That's a good reputation to have, and we're going to keep it.

I've watched this campaign in New Jersey with great attention. It's always easy for someone to demagog in an election for an office as important as United States Senator. We've watched with interest the Proposition 13 vote in California. And quite often that vote has been seriously distorted in this race by the opponent of Bill Bradley. For anyone to demand, for instance, that the Federal income tax be reduced enormously, like 30 or 35 percent, means that the local taxpayers, the property taxpayers will have to have enormous increases in the burden on their shoulders.

This is a point that's often distorted. But Bill Bradley understands this. We are bringing substantial reductions in income taxes at the Federal level to all of you and the people of the United States, but we are doing it in a careful and responsible way. We do not want to see property taxes raised. We want to see property taxes reduced, as Brendan Byrne and all of you were able to do in the last few years. And we are thankful for that. Bill Bradley[inaudible].

Let me just make one other point before I close. We have a great country. Sometimes that greatness has not been realized nor recognized. As you all know, Congressman Peter Rodino, in the Watergate embarrassment, brought a new breath of fresh air to Washington. It took not only great courage but sound judgment and absolute integrity to do it. But in the aftermath of Vietnam and Watergate and the CIA revelations, our Nation's reputation was soiled. Many Americans turned away from our own Government and said, "It embarrasses me." The vision, the ideal, the commitment that were there 200 years ago when our Nation was formed, have somehow been lost. One of of the great responsibilities that I share with you is to restore that vision and that degree of cleanness and decency and honesty and truth and principle to our country. It's not an easy task, because the complications of dealing with foreign nations who are sovereign, over whom we have no control, are so difficult to analyze and to utilize to meet our goals.

This past 2 weeks, we had a great step forward at Camp David because of the courage of President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin. I talked yesterday afternoon with President Sadat just before he left. And the peace negotiations will not take place, as you know, until after the Knesset votes. But I asked him if we could start immediately to deciding on a location for the peace treaty discussions. He said yes. I said, "Can we start immediately with our own Ambassadors and with an American representative analyzing all of the talks and discussions that have already taken place between Defense Minister Weizman from Israel and Secretary of War, Minister of War Jamasi in Egypt?" He said yes. So, we'll commence this without delay.

As you know, we've now sent Secretary Vance to meet today with King Hussein of Jordan, to urge him in the strongest possible way to join in the negotiations in the future. He'll go from there to Saudi Arabia to meet with King Khalid and with Crown Prince Fahd and others. He'll go from there to meet President Asad in Jordan. (

Note: The President spoke at 12:25 p.m. in the Granada Ballroom at the Boardwalk Regency Hotel.

Jimmy Carter, Atlantic City, New Jersey Remarks at a Democratic Party Campaign Luncheon. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/243185

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